There was a time not so very long ago when golf shoes came in pretty much two varieties: monochrome (white, brown or black), or two-tone saddles (white-brown, white-black or, for the daring, brown-black) that wouldn't have been out of place at a sock hop.
Of course, it also wasn't so very long ago that persimmon woods and balata balls ruled the fairway -- it only seems that way.
A new breed of fit, dashing, eager-for-airtime PGA Tour pros like Adam Scott, Ian Poulter and rookie Camilo Villegas, as well as more sartorial adventuresome amateurs, have helped push what were once fringe looks to the center of the green.
Golf's loudest fashion statement is no longer the tragic
plaid pant with overhanging paunch, but some seriously eye-catching footwear that's as comfortable as an old pair of slippers.
This is a key point, given the four to five hours you'll be walking in them on the course.
And you will be walking, won't you? Taking a motorized cart is so outdated.
Here are five superlative models to check out:
FootJoy has ruled the golf-shoe market with an iron foot since well before the current young-gun pros were born, and indeed, its wares grace the tootsies of a majority of both professionals and amateurs.
Long considered a traditionalist's brand, those omnipresent snarky Sign-Boy ads have updated the company's image in tandem with more adventurous design.
($125) pushes the envelope the farthest, with contrast stitching and styling that would look as comfortable on the lanes of the local bowling alley as it does roaming the fairways. It comes in three different color options and offers a two-year waterproof guarantee.
Adidas' Tour 360 ($180) has become a regular sight to fans of televised golf, since it's the preferred look of brand endorsers Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia and Mike Weir.
The insole has three layers of different densities to create a customized fit, a patterned tongue that stays centered for comfort (What don't these guys think of?) and a combination of plastic cleats and z-shaped lugs to keep you well-grounded during the swing. The visually striking 360-degree "midfoot wrap" also promotes stability. Look for the wrap in the new Special Edition Tour Colors (green, sky blue and pink, for starters) online and at select retailers.
Better known for its comfort footwear, the Danish shoemaker
Ecco has been making significant inroads in golf for the past five years, buoyed in part by street-shoe styling and the support of staffers like Australian pro Aaron Baddeley, who recently won his first PGA Tour event, the Verizon Heritage Classic at the famed Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Casual Cool GTX
($190) is among the company's most fashion-forward offerings and features a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane, a durable thermoplastic-urethane outsole and a polyurethane midsole to help keep the spring in a golfer's stride.
Players in search of a golf sneaker would do well to consider the most obvious source,
Nike, and its
Air Max Summer TW
($95). You won't see T.W. (Tiger Woods) himself don these during a tournament, but you can bet they get a workout during his home practice sessions. A big air-sole cushion unit in the heel offers serious cushioning and comfort, while scorpion stinger spikes prevent slippage during the swing. The mesh upper will keep your dogs cool during the dog days of summer, and the athletic last (the form shaped like a foot used to make shoes) provides a rounded toe and fuller forefront for added wiggle room.
After struggling for a time with corporate troubles,
Etonic has changed ownership and started to see a revival in its fortunes.
($179) should help to maintain that momentum. Its highest-end shoe showcases a winning insouciance and comes in five different styles. The technology runs from toe to heel and sole to outsole, highlighted by nine anticlog, dual-density cleats per shoe for traction and durability; a Phylon midsole to cushion and support the arch; and soft, waterproof, full-grain leather uppers with breathable Gore-Tex waterproofing, capped with a two-year warranty.
A newcomer to golf,
Puma has quickly become a recognizable brand due largely to the stellar 2006 PGA Tour play of endorser Geoff Ogilvy.
($160) offers a subtle nod to the old school with its modified kiltie, and comes in color combos with names like vaporous gray/lime punch and white/online lime/gold fusion. But there's substance to match the style, too, with waterproof full-grain leather sporting a Gore-Tex membrane, for starters. And, like Adidas, Nike and FootJoy, the company has golf-specific apparel to consider, too.
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Evan Rothman is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. A former executive editor at Golf Magazine, his work has appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Men's Journal and other leading publications.